Stop the Traffic
February 2018 Issue

Meet a BCAT Member Corner   - Kathy Bennett

BCAT may have recently observed its fifth-year anniversary, but Kathy Bennett, a founding co-chair of BCAT, had a two-year start on the coalition. Kathy, who recently stepped away from the position to assume leadership of the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging (AAA, as she refers to it), remembers when she and a few others attended a meeting of a Bucks County women's group to learn about human trafficking.

"My first impression was, 'Oh, you mean that trafficking that's happening in foreign countries?'" she said recently. "But we heard a panel speak and realized that it was already right here in Bucks County. And Louise McCleod, who was on NOVA's board, said, 'We need to do more about this.' So we began to connect with other community groups here and similar organizations in other counties, initially to educate ourselves."

It wasn't long after that that Kathy, Luciana Alderfer and about 40 interested people -including members of the district attorney's office and local law enforcement--convened for the first time to learn more about human trafficking. Pennsylvania Sen. Stewart Greenleaf addressed the group, and a steering committee was formed shortly thereafter, to develop bylaws and a structure for what soon became BCAT, with Kathy and Luciana as co-chairs.

In BCAT's early stages, "we found that in order to get things done, we had to divide into four subcommittees of about 10-15 people each," she explained. Soroptimist International was instrumental in helping BCAT get off the ground, as championing causes that help women and girls is a focus of the group. Worthwhile Wear, Children and Youth Services, Bucks County Drug & Alcohol, local police departments-Bensalem Township police in particular-all helped build a strong foundation with which BCAT partnered, as did securing government funding wherever possible to support its efforts.

Since its founding, Kathy points with pride to BCAT's ongoing dedication to educating the public about human trafficking. School education curricula developed by BCAT flourishes in schools, raising awareness of HT and helping prevent victimization among young people locally. Strong ties to many public and private organizations are key in helping BCAT achieve its goals.

Kathy also attributes BCAT's early achievements in large part to the support of the NOVA board of directors.

"From the beginning, NOVA gave me time to work on human trafficking and BCAT," she said. "Life interferes too much when an effort is an all-volunteer thing. Having NOVA's organizational structure behind BCAT and making it be part of my job enabled me to have the time to write grants and for us to be able to add resources." Deirdre Blackburn and a human trafficking advocate position are now essential to BCAT's success, Kathy noted.

Kathy is excited for BCAT's future, especially under the leadership of co-chairs Julie Dugery (NOVA Coordinator of Volunteer and Community Outreach) and Patty Cullen, of Soroptimist International of Indian Rock.

"There's so much ahead for BCAT," she said. "I'd like to see BCAT do more legislatively and educationally to work on reducing demand for human trafficking, particularly in sexual exploitation of women." She looks forward to supporting BCAT's efforts to strengthen victim response and rehabilitation, which is often linked to drug and alcohol addiction.

And although Kathy's now at the Area Agency on Aging, BCAT is never far from her heart and mind. She still attends BCAT meetings and is devoted to working with individuals and groups in eradicating human trafficking. "BCAT isn't something that was just a job to me," she said. "I will always have an interest in the organization and the work." There's even an overlap with her new position, as she was instrumental at NOVA in helping create the Bucks County Task Force Against Elder Abuse.  

"While I may be a step removed from BCAT now, I care about the people involved in BCAT," she noted. "We all care about one another and about the victims we serve. The people and the passion and the desire to fight human trafficking make BCAT so special and so important."

Pennsylvania is on the way to passing special protections for child victims of trafficking. Senate Bill 554, Safe Harbor Protections for Child Victims of Human Trafficking, passed the state Senate with a unanimous vote and has been awaiting consideration in the House Judiciary Committee almost a year ago, on April 26, 2017.

Safe Harbor needs your help! Will you please call your state representative immediately? Tell him/her that:
1)   you support SB554, which protects teen victims of commercial sexual exploitation from prosecution
2)   you want him/her to tell House Judiciary Chairman Ronald Marsico to request the bill be listed for consideration so it can move to the House for a full vote
3)   you want them to consider signing on to the House companion bill sponsored by Reps. Joseph Petrarca and Tarah Toohill. Thirty seven state representatives have already signed on.
You can find your state rep at this link:
Better about a trip to Harrisburg this week? SB554 advocates are planning a rally at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, at the Capitol Rotunda. The combination rally and news conference are intended to encourage legislators to get SB554 out of committee and on the floor for a vote. Please add your presence as well as your voice to supporting this crucial legislation! Register to attend by clicking here or contact Julie Dugery at 215-343-6543 or via email at

(Note: Reps. Tina David, Frank Farry, Kathy Watson, Tom Murt, Perry Warren, Craig Staats, Marguerite Quinn, and Gene DiGirolamo have already signed on a cosponsors. If you are in their districts, please call to thank them for their support.)
On January 9th, BCAT held its' first professional conference, "Human Trafficking: Creating Awareness and Taking Action in Bucks County." Close to 200 people gathered at Delaware Valley University for the day-long conference.  The theme of the conference was the importance of a collaborative effort in addressing all forms of trafficking. A highlight of the conference occurred when the Keynote speaker, a survivor of sex trafficking, shared her experience with a packed auditorium. She also talked about what it meant for her to finally be rescued, as she called it, from "the life." In her own words,

"I spent years running from the very people who are in this room today," said Ali, referring to the legal, criminal justice, social service, and healthcare professionals in attendance. "Today I am on the other side of it with help from people like you and I am forever grateful."

BCAT hopes to make the conference a biannual event.


The National Human Trafficking Hotline has announced it has expanded the modes of communication survivors can use to connect with help to include 24/7 SMS texting and online chat services in both English and Spanish. This provides discreet ways for survivors to get connected to support through as many modes of communication as possible.

The BeFree Textline is 233733. It is now fully integrated into the National Human Trafficking Hotline and is accessible day and night. Online chat is now accessible from . Callers can still access the hotline via the phone (including in more than 200 languages through the use of a secure translation service), email and webform.
The Polaris Project has released a report providing new research on the scope of the massage parlor business in the US and details how this lucrative industry operates on the edges of legality while hiding massive criminal enterprises.

Titled "Human Trafficking in Illicit Massage Businesses," the report marks the start of a national campaign to enact state and local laws that regulate massage businesses, similar to how many jurisdictions regulate other businesses like restaurants and beauty salons. This will help eliminate massage parlor trafficking while ensuring the health and safety of customers and employees of therapeutic massage businesses. Read the report here.  
And read the Philadelphia Inquirer story that features BCAT as well as other partners in the fight against trafficking.

People can receive help or report a tip of suspected human trafficking in the US by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or texting Polaris at "BeFree" (233733).

Registration is now live for the April 5-6 Villanova Law Institute's second survivor-led symposium, titled "Engaging Survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation in the Search for Justice." The two-day event will feature workshops taught by national survivor leaders and will be held at the Inn at Villanova in Radnor, PA. Workshops will be led by survivors of human trafficking and will encourage participants to engage in problem-solving scenarios on a variety of relevant topics and current issues in legislation, law enforcement and education.  The event is free for survivors and accredited for CEU's CLEE's and CLE's. To register, visit and search "Villanova Law Institute." Or click here.

Uber is teaming up with US anti-trafficking groups ECPAT-USA, Thorn, and The McCain Institute in an effort to train its drivers on how to spot human trafficking and report potential cases. The move to train Uber drivers to identify human traffickers comes after Uber drivers in California and Pennsylvania have been publicized as having recognized trafficking situations and contacting police. In the new initiative, messages sent through the Uber app will give drivers information on trafficking and how to report their suspicions to police and non-governmental organizations. Drivers will be instructed to watch for signs of trafficking, which include people who look inadequately dressed, fearful or submissive; people who sport bruises; and people who are accompanied by someone who seems controlling.

Mark your calendar...the next Community Quarterly meeting for BCAT will be April 18, 5:30 p.m. at NOVA's Jamison offices. The meeting will feature Renée Calhoun, Program Director for SOAR, an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility. Renée is a member of BCAT's Victim Focus subcommittee and will present on substance abuse issues, including the opiate epidemic, with a focus on the intersection of drug use and human trafficking. Below are the meeting dates for 2018:
April 18
July 18
October 17
For more information contact Deirdre at
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